Today we drive cars that are safer and more fuel efficient than ever, yet serious car accidents continue to occur, injuring more than 4.6 million people each year on U.S. roadways.¹
Whether you live in a big city or small town, traffic is part of daily life. With everyone on the go, it’s no surprise the average American driver will likely be in three or four car accidents during their lifetime.²
Nevada has it’s share of car accidents, exceeding the national average with more than 50,000 vehicle crashes causing more than 30,000 combined injuries and fatalities in the last reported year.³
Accidents happen to the most careful drivers, without warning. One minute you’re driving the usual route to work, then suddenly you’re part of a crash scene waiting for help to arrive.
When you’ve suffered bodily injuries and property damage from a car wreck, you’ll need time and money to recover. Getting the money you’ll need to cover your losses starts with a strong insurance claim.
What You Need to Know if You’ve Been in a Nevada Car Accident
You can’t prevent most car accidents, but when it happens you can be prepared by knowing what you’ll need to do and say, and what not to do and say.
Here are 10 steps to building a strong auto insurance claim, with answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Stopping at an accident scene isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the law. Stop as close to the scene as you safely can, check to see if anyone is hurt, and call 911.
Tell the 911 dispatcher the nature of your emergency and the following details:
Location: Emergency help will get there faster if they know where to find you. Tell the dispatcher the road you’re on, the direction you were heading, the nearest intersections or mile markers, and a description of any landmarks near the crash.
Injuries: Tell the dispatcher if anyone is injured or pinned in their vehicle.
Hazards: Describe any hazards at the accident scene, such as leaking fuel, downed power lines, traffic, or cars overturned or on fire.
If you’ve called 911 for an accident involving injuries, death, or where there are hazards or traffic problems, police will most likely be dispatched to the scene.
In busy jurisdictions, police may not be available to respond to minor fender-benders.
You are required to offer reasonable assistance to people who are injured, including arranging for transportation to the nearest facility for medical treatment.
Help the injured person as best you can until paramedics arrive. In a dire emergency, if there is no other help available, you may need to transport the person to the nearest medical facility.
Drivers involved in Nevada car accidents are also required to provide their name, address and car registration information to the police and the driver and passengers of the other car, and must display their driver’s license upon request.
Some accident injuries are obvious, like gaping wounds and broken bones. But there are some serious, even life-threatening injuries like internal bleeding and closed head trauma that aren’t so obvious. These types of injuries may not show clear symptoms until hours or even days after a car accident.
Never refuse medical treatment at the scene. You may be stunned by the collision impact, and shock and fear can mask symptoms. This is not the time to act tough. Tell the paramedics about every symptom you’re experiencing, even if you’re not sure it’s related. If the paramedics want to take you to the hospital, go with them.
If you aren’t taken directly to the hospital from the accident scene, get yourself to a medical provider as soon as possible after the crash. If your regular provider isn’t available, go to the nearest urgent care center or hospital emergency department.
Refusing or delaying medical treatment after an accident can significantly weaken your insurance claim. The insurance company won’t hesitate to argue that your injuries were not caused by the crash.
Even when no one is injured, drivers involved in a Nevada car accident are required to provide their name, address and car registration information to the driver and passengers of the other car, and must display their driver’s license if asked.
If you hit a parked car or any other unattended property, stop and try to locate the driver or property owner.
If you can’t locate the driver, leave a note in a conspicuous place on the damaged car or property with your name and address. If you’re driving a car that isn’t yours, include the car owner’s name and contact information in the note.
The law also requires you to immediately call the police to report hitting an unattended vehicle or other property.
When the police arrive at an accident scene, they have a job to do. Law enforcement officers are highly trained in accident investigations and are authorized to secure the scene, coordinate with other emergency services to care for the injured, determine fault, issue traffic citations, and more.
You have the right to try to explain your side of the story, but the officer is not obligated to listen to you. When an officer asks you to wait, or be quiet, or gives you any other instructions, you should cooperate.
Never argue with police. Acting aggressively or making confrontational remarks will not only interfere with the officer’s investigation of the accident, but it may also lead to your arrest.
If the investigating officer decides you violated Nevada traffic laws, you may be issued one or more traffic citations. While you can try to dissuade the officer from giving you a ticket, once they do you must accept it, and sign the citation if required.
Accepting a traffic ticket is not an admission of guilt. If you want to contest the citation, do it in traffic court, not at the accident scene.
The minutes after a collision are crucial for gathering evidence that will strengthen your insurance claim. Once an accident scene is cleared, drivers leave, and witnesses become hard to find. If you’ve suffered injuries or property damage in a Nevada car accident, you’ll need proof the other driver did something wrong or failed to drive responsibly.
Property damage can include the cost to repair your car, the cost of a rental while your car is in the shop, the cost to replace or repair personal property that was lost or damaged in the crash, and the value of your vehicle if it’s a total loss.
Bodily injury damages can include the cost of medical, dental, chiropractic, and mental health treatments; therapy; medical assistive devices; medications; hospital bills; replacement services; and pain and suffering.
Begin by asking the other driver for their name, address, car registration information, auto insurance information, and driver’s license information.
Here are additional sources of valuable evidence:
Vehicle: Get the make, model, year and description of the other vehicle. Include the registration and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of the other car. The VIN number can typically be found on the lower left corner of the dashboard where it meets the windshield, on the driver’s insurance card, or inside the door jamb of the driver’s side door. You aren’t allowed to go into the other vehicle without permission.
Passengers: Passengers aren’t required to disclose information to you, but you may ask the occupants of the other vehicle for their names, addresses, emails, phone numbers, and dates of birth. If they don’t cooperate, make your own detailed notes about the number of passengers, their appearance, estimated ages, how they behaved, and anything they said. Include your observations about anything you saw them do.
Witnesses: Witnesses don’t have to speak with you, but you can try to talk to a witness long enough to determine if they saw anything that could help your claim. If the person is cooperative, ask them to write down what they saw and to sign and date their written statement.
Diagrams: Sketch out a drawing of the accident scene showing the location of the cars and which direction they were heading. As you draw, be sure to show road conditions like icy patches or debris in the road. Make notes about the visibility, if it was day or night, and anything you saw, heard or even smelled (like alcohol) before or after the accident happened.
Photos and Video: Using your cell phone, camera, tablet or any other device you’ve got, walk around taking as many pictures and videos of the cars and the accident scene as you safely can. Videos with sound and photographs are compelling forms of evidence. They can document important details of the crash, and capture critical information about the behavior of the driver and occupants of the other car. Photographs and video make it difficult for people to change their stories afterward.
Take advantage of this free Car Accident Information Form. Keep a copy of the form and a pen in your car along with your proof of insurance. You’ll always be prepared to gather critical evidence from an accident scene.
Almost every auto insurance policy in the U.S. includes a Notice of Occurrence and Cooperation clause. The clause means you agree to tell your insurance company when you’re in an accident and agree to cooperate with the insurance company’s accident investigation.
The clause in your policy will have language like this:
“Insured (you) agrees to notify the insurer (your insurance company) of any accidents and thereafter comply with all information, assistance, and cooperation which the insurer reasonably requests, and agrees that in the event of a claim the insurer and the insured will do nothing that shall prejudice the insurer’s position…”
Your insurance policy is a contractual agreement between you and your insurer. You expect your insurance company to protect your interests, but you’ve got to do your part.
You’re always better off by promptly notifying your insurance company of any accident you’ve been in, even if the accident wasn’t your fault, no one was hurt, or the other driver urges you to work out the details without involving the police or insurance companies.
If the other driver decides to blame you for the crash, begins complaining of injury symptoms days later, or anyone from the other car hires an attorney, you can bet they will be contacting your insurer with a demand for money. Your insurance company would be at a terrible disadvantage if you hadn’t already notified them of the accident.
Failing to notify your insurer of an accident is a breach of your contract that can lead the insurance company to raise your premiums, decline to renew your policy, or even cancel your insurance.
Today there are plenty of mobile applications for Apple and Android devices to make starting your insurance claim faster and easier. Depending on the app, you can:
- Pinpoint the accident location
- Take photographs
- Capture vital information from drivers, passengers, and witnesses
- Diagram the scene
- Notify your insurance company
Here’s a sampling of the available mobile applications. Check with your insurance company to see if they offer their own app:
Drivers involved in a Nevada car accident resulting in injuries, death, or property damage over $750 are required to submit a completed crash report form and required attachments to the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days of the crash.
If the driver is incapacitated, the owner of the vehicle should comply with the reporting requirements.
The Report of Traffic Crash form is available from the DMV website. Drivers must attach proof of insurance, an estimate of property damages, and a doctor’s statement of injury for anyone injured in their vehicle.
You are excused from the reporting requirement if the police investigated the accident and filed a police accident report that includes the name of your insurance company, policy number, and policy effective dates.
Nevada is not a no-fault insurance state. Instead, Nevada follows third-party liability rules.
When it comes to insurance, making a claim under your own policy is known as a first-party claim. If you make a claim under someone else’s insurance policy you’re filing a third-party claim.
If you’ve been the victim of a negligent driver in a Nevada car accident, you have the option to:
- File an accident claim with your own insurance company
- File an accident claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company
- File a lawsuit against the negligent driver
Your policy’s liability coverage helps pay for injuries and property damage to others when an accident was your fault.
Nevada requires minimum bodily injury liability coverage in the amounts of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident, as well as property damage liability coverage of at least $10,000.
Nevada follows the 51% modified comparative negligence rule, meaning that you can pursue compensation from the other driver even if you’re partially liable for the accident, so long as you are not more to blame than the other driver for causing the accident.
How much compensation you may be able to get after a Nevada car accident not only depends on the value of your damages, but how much liability you share with the other driver. If you are partially to blame for the accident, your compensation will be reduced accordingly.
Example of how comparative negligence rules can reduce a claim settlement:
Sam was driving west on Canyon Drive to pick up his girlfriend for dinner. He was texting to let her know he was running late.
Rhonda was on her way to work, heading northbound on Park Lane. As she approached the intersection of Park and Canyon, Rhonda hit the gas, trying to make it through a yellow traffic light. Unfortunately, the light turned red as she entered the intersection. Rhonda slammed into the side of Sam’s car, seriously injuring Sam.
Sam filed a claim with Rhonda’s insurance company, demanding $100,000 for his medical costs and pain and suffering. The insurance company refused to pay, claiming that Sam’s negligence caused the crash.
Sam sued Rhonda for his injury damages. During the trial, the jury saw evidence that Rhonda caused the accident because she didn’t stop at the red light. However, the jury also saw evidence that Sam was texting at the time of the crash. Both Sam and Rhonda were negligent. They both caused the accident.
The jury found Rhonda to be 60% to blame for the accident because she ran the red light, and found Sam to be 40% liable for texting while driving.
While the jury agreed that Sam’s injury claim was worth $100,000, under Nevada’s Modified Comparative Negligence rule, his compensation was reduced by 40%, corresponding to his portion of negligence, so Sam was awarded $60,000 for his damages.
If the jury had found Sam’s portion of negligence for the accident to be 51% or more, he would have left the courtroom empty-handed.
Let’s say you’ve been in a car accident. Your car is damaged, and you have medical bills to pay. You haven’t been able to work since the accident, and the at-fault driver’s insurance company is calling. All you want is to be treated fairly and be compensated for your losses.
Do you call an attorney, or do you handle the matter yourself?
There are some insurance claims that can be settled without legal help. Other claims require the skill and experience of a personal injury attorney to get anywhere near the amount of compensation you’ll need to cover your losses.
Before you decide to deal directly with the insurance company, take some time to think about the type of injuries you’ve sustained, and what it will take to get the appropriate compensation.
“Soft tissue” injuries can be bumps and bruises, scrapes, pulled muscles, whiplash, and similarly minor injuries that don’t require a lot of expensive diagnostic tests. Soft tissue claims are typically uncomplicated, comprised of the cost of your medical and therapy bills, some lost wages, and a limited amount for pain and suffering. Soft tissue claims can often be successfully settled on your own.
“Hard” injuries are severe and include potentially life-threatening or disabling injuries like deep open wounds, complicated fractures, amputations, brain injuries, spinal cord trauma, or extensive burns. Hard injuries are complex and expensive, with large bills for hospitalizations, diagnosis and treatment, surgery, rehab, assistive devices, replacement services, and a tremendous amount of pain and suffering.
Getting an appropriate settlement for hard injury claims often takes the expert use of litigation tactics like sworn medical testimony, records subpoenas, interrogatories, depositions, and more.
Hard injuries are complicated, high-dollar claims. Insurance companies are not willing to part with that kind of money if they can induce you to accept less. When the insurance company makes their “final” offer, you probably won’t have the tools or energy to fight them. They’re banking on that. Insurance companies routinely offer lower settlements to claimants who are not represented by counsel.
There’s just too much at stake for you to represent yourself in a hard injury claim.
An experienced personal injury attorney has the skills and training to compel the insurance company to pay the full amount of compensation you deserve for your injury claim.
Most reputable personal injury attorneys offer a free initial office consultation. You may consult with more than one attorney before selecting who will fight for you.
Before your first attorney meeting, gather your accident-related paperwork. Your file should include your detailed notes, pictures and video taken after the crash, witness statements, a copy of the police accident report, your medical records and bills, and records of any communications you’ve had with the insurance company.
After listening to your side of the story and reviewing your accident file, the attorney will discuss the value of your claim, how long it can take to settle, and if you should file a lawsuit against the other driver.
Most personal injury attorneys are paid on a contingency basis, meaning their fees will be taken from your settlement amount or court award. Depending on the complexity of your case, the attorney’s fees can range from 20% up to 40% of your settlement.
If the attorney doesn’t settle your claim or loses your court case, you won’t owe any fees.
Small claims court in Nevada is called Justice Court. Each township has a Justice Court and may have slightly different rules and forms for filing a small claims lawsuit.
A small claims lawsuit may be a good option for you when:
- The at-fault driver’s insurance company offers a low-ball settlement
- The at-fault driver’s insurance company denied your claim
- An attorney will not take your case on a contingency basis
You may file a suit in Nevada Justice Court for claims up to $10,000.
In small claims court, you must file your lawsuit against the at-fault driver, not the driver’s insurance company.
Keep in mind that in Nevada Justice Court, you may only sue a person who lives, works, or does business in the township where you’re filing your lawsuit.
To get more information about Nevada small claims court, visit the Nevada Courts website for the Justice Court nearest you.
A statute of limitations for car accidents is the legally mandated time frame for either settling your accident claim or filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Nevada has a two-year statute of limitations for bodily injury and property damage claims arising from a car accident. The statute begins to run on the accident date.
That means you have two years from the date of the accident to either settle your damages claim or file a lawsuit against the negligent driver, or your claim will be extinguished.
The insurance company isn’t obligated to help you settle your claim before the statute of limitation expires and has no legal authority to grant you an extension. Don’t trust the claims adjuster, especially if they say you won’t need an attorney.
Remember, the insurance company and their adjuster will do whatever it takes to avoid paying a large settlement. They’ve got all the time in the world. You don’t. They know what happens if the statute runs out before your claim settles and you haven’t sued their insured.
Unless you have a final settlement agreement signed by all parties, you must file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver before the statutory deadline, or you will never see a dime from the at-fault driver or the driver’s insurance company, no matter how severely you’ve been injured.
Don’t be afraid to sue the at-fault driver. A lawsuit will stop the statute from running and makes it clear to the insurance company that it’s time for them to bring real money to the table. After filing suit, your attorney will continue negotiating with the insurance company and may be able to satisfactorily settle your claim before going to court.
Know the statute of limitations deadline for your case. Put reminders on your phone, your calendar, or anywhere that will remind you in advance of the deadline. If settlement negotiations are stalled, or the deadline is looming, consult an attorney. Don’t wait until the last days to protect your claim.
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